Your personality type can change the meaning of the words you use. This can potentially lead to confusion, misunderstanding, or conflict.
For example, people who prefer Thinking tend to use the word “sorry” to mean they have made a mistake. Those who prefer Feeling tend to use it to show sympathy or empathy. This can lead to misunderstanding because:
- When a Feeler says “I’m sorry”, the Thinker can misconstrue this as being an admission of an error.
- When a Thinker fails to say “I’m sorry”, the Feeler can misconstrue this as lacking care or concern.
In some cases, the argument that ensues can end up in the law courts. For example, if a doctor apologises for the bad outcome of an operation, a patient might mistake this for an admission of liability. (Using an apology as evidence of liability has been outlawed by some US states.)
Clarity of goals
A common misunderstanding in the workplace is when someone asks to “clarify goals”. For Sensors, this often means they want a definition of the end point or product towards which they are working. For iNtuitives, this often means they want to be pointed in the right general direction (i.e. being allowed some freedom to shape the end goal for themselves). This can lead to frustration if, for example, a Sensor fails to get a specific answer from an iNtuitive boss – i.e. asking for an end point but getting a direction instead. Alternatively, an iNtuitive who asks for direction may feel they are being micromanaged by a Sensor boss who defines a specific end-point.
Personality type is not the only way in which words can be given different meanings. Meaning can be changed by many other things, such as:
- Culture. Many British and American words have different meanings. For example, if a Brit says “I have some blinkers in my boot to put on my horse” this makes no sense to an American. The Brit seems to be saying he has some car indicators in his footwear to put on his horse. The words need to be translated from British into American by saying “I have some blinders in my trunk…”
- Experience. If someone says “I like speed”, a drug addict would assume they are referring to amphetamines, a Formula 1 enthusiast assumes it refers to cars, and a movie-enthusiast assumes it refers to the film. There are many different meanings to the word “speed”.
- Context. If you say “I’m going to do some boxing” when you are in a sports hall, most people will assume you are referring to the sport. If, however, you are working in a distribution centre, it probably means you are going to prepare some customer orders for despatch.
- Others. Meaning can also be changed by how you communicate, the medium you use, who you are, etc.. For example, a young person describing something as “wicked” on twitter usually means it is a very good thing. If an academic describes something as wicked in an article, it usually means it is a very bad thing.
Informating vs. communicating
Misunderstandings such as these are very common. However, it is very rare that people realise that there has been a misunderstanding. Most people “informate” – that is, they say things (give out information) and assume the other person has understood. To “communicate” you have to work harder, to make sure you both share the same meaning, rather than just impart information that can be misunderstood.